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Macbeth Act One

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Discuss Shakespeare's dramatic technique in Act one scenes 1 to 7. The chief character of the play is Macbeth. He is first of all Thane of Glamis and then inherits the title thane of Cawdor from an executed traitor. Instigated by a prophecy from the Witches that he will become king, and urged on by his wife, he murders King Duncan, and has himself proclaimed king. To secure his position, he is driven to commit further criminal acts, and plunges his country into civil war. After he is killed in battle by Macduff he is described as a 'dead butcher'. The first scene is set on the 'moor' that is bleak and desolate. This scene is one of desolation and devastation. The desolate countryside metaphorically separates the humans from the Witches who are used to open the play to introduce the idea of fate and destiny. From the stage directions, the 'battlefield' creates a scene of death, carnage and destruction in line 4, 'when the battle's lost and won' and line 12 and 13, 'fair is foul and foul is fair' a paradox is offered. How can fair be foul? How a battle be lost and won? The Witches' chant in rhyming couplets and their speech is deliberately equivocal to create confusion in the mortals, as it is open t interpretation. He rhyming couplets give the effect of an incantation, while the thunder and lightning echo the noise of the battle. Similarly strange is thepaaradox that closes the scene: contained within it is the oxymoron, 'fair is foul, and foul is fair', a paradoxical idea that the Witches are able to transform what is good into evil, and make what is evil appear virtuous. These are also the first words spoken in the play by Macbeth, the echo establishes an unconscious contact with the Witches and is dramatically effective. We discover that the Witches are on the 'moor' 'to meet with Macbeth'. ...read more.


When the Witches depart in this scene, Macbeth orders them to, 'Stay, you imperfect speakers tell me more'. Macbeth's curiosity has got the better of him and his demand of the Witches indicates his obsessive interest with these 'weird women' and their prophecies. The Witches 'vanish' into the air as they do not receive orders from mortals and will not be dictated to. The source and purpose of their evil remains a mystery to the audience. Shakespeare metaphorically compares the disappearance of the Witches to 'bubbles'. Macbeth's life can also be represented as a bubble, as the 'honour, love, obedience' and 'troops of old friends' that he has will soon disappear under the wishes they had 'stay'd'. Ross and Angus enter, they are used as dramatic devices to convey to Macbeth the Kings decision to reward Macbeth with the title 'Thane of Cawdor'. Macbeth and Banquo are both shocked as the 'devil' has spoken the truth. Macbeth is already snared by the Witches' prophecies, as he believes that, 'The greatest is behind' On the other hand, Banquo can see through the trickery of the Witches. He is sceptical and can see through Macbeth's motives in asking him whether he hopes his heirs will become kings. Banquo tries to warm Macbeth against the 'instruments of darkness'. He tries to convince Macbeth that the Witches tell simple truths that are easy to believe, so that when they want to deceive people with more important matters they will also be believed. 'And often times, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray's In deepest consequence'. Banquo is portrayed b by Shakespeare in a positive light, as he does not make him an accomplice in Duncan's murder. The stage directions show that Macbeth turns 'aside'. This informs the audience that he is talking to himself. This symbolises Macbeth turning away from the other characters in the play as well as the path to righteousness. ...read more.


Though Macbeth is driven by 'his vaulting ambition' he redeems himself and 'will proceed no further in this business', as Duncan's murder will be 'like angels, trumpet-tongu'd' and heaven would be outraged. The verb 'will' shows Macbeth's determination to keep his soul. Toward the end of his soliloquy Macbeth compares his excessive ambition to a horse that tries to jump too high and fall on the other side of the fence. Within the soliloquy Macbeth's thoughts seem to be fragmented, this is shown by the use of many full stops. Lady Macbeth verbally assaults her husband using violent language that becomes heightened. She accuses him of being a 'coward' and questions his manhood: 'when you durst do it', she says, ' then you were a man'. She is forceful in her language and she conjures up images of horror. She knows, 'How tender'tis love the babe that milks me: I would, While it was smiling in my face, Have pluck'd my nipple from boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out...' Lady Macbeth seems to have been granted her earlier wish to the evil spirits to 'Fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty'. Macbeth's earlier decision not to kill Duncan crumbles under the scornful attack of his wife, especially when his bravery is questioned. However, he is still worried bout what will happen to then if they 'should fail'. Shakespeare cleverly ends the scene with rhyming couplets. 'Away, and mock the time with fairest show, False face must hide what the false heart doth know'. The rhyming couplets symbolise their connection with the Witches and evil as they complete their preparations for murder. The audience waits in anticipation. Throughout Act one Shakespeare creates an atmosphere of tension by exploring the theme of evil against good. Symbolism is used to emphasise this theme. Dramatic irony, dramatic language and strong descriptive scenes also help to build up an atmosphere of tension. ...read more.

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